"Amuses me how people treat an REI dividend like a tax refund: "Hey, free money from the government/from REI!" Uh...you paid it in, pal."
Not really, at least not in my situation. I get my refund almost entirely from using my REI credit card. No annual fee, I pay it off every month, and when I spend my dividend it is almost always on a sale or clearance item. With five active kids, the dividend has paid for ALOT of clothing in our home, without ever over-paying. If it's cheaper elsewhere, that's where I spend my money. Outside of clothing and misc small gear that rarely goes on sale, I spend the rest of my funds at the small cottage companies.